Online Security Can Create Challenges for Customers

Credit cards and keyboard.

I always knew the day would come when all this moving around became highly problematic.  If you’ve been military, you know about the usual hassles of changing your address and cancelling old payments and starting new payments and updating all your information everything time you move.  Knock on wood, our family hasn’t had any horror stories yet, but we have run into our first potentially quite annoying situation.

Two weeks ago, one of my tasks was to update our addresses with all our banks and credit unions and other financial institutions.  Online is typically the simplest way to make these changes, so I always try the internet first.  I got nearly everything switched, and then I tried to change our address on our Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) account.  I entered all the relevant information, and then I was asked for a “security code” to verify that I was authorized to make the changes.  This security code – it sounds vaguely familiar, but I didn’t know what the code was and it isn’t in my notes.  So I called PenFed, who explained that it was a code that I set up when I opened up the account.   Yeah, sounding less familiar now, as that would be with the notes I took when I set up the account.  They did let me try a few different guesses, and none of them worked.   And, because my husband’s name is primary on the account, they couldn’t help me proceed any further.

That night, I provided my husband with all the necessary information and he called PenFed.  The customer service representative suggested that we stop by a branch, and recommended two locations that are more than an hour from our house.  Then, the rep said that he could send the security code to us, using the old mailing address.   Despite that being super-unhelpful, my husband agreed to plan (I think to avoid having to spend half a workday physically going to a PenFed location.)  That was over 10 days ago.  I’m not at all surprised that we haven’t yet received this mystery security code yet, since the Military Postal System forwarding process is notoriously slow and unreliable.  In the meantime, we can’t proceed with some transactions because we need to have the correct mailing address in the PenFed system.

I shouldn’t have been completely surprised, as this is not the first time I’ve been caught in a PenFed super-security trap, and I’m not the only person who has ever had this type of problem.  What I should have done is triple-checked that we had the right security information before we started on this year’s moving adventure, and ensured that I understood each bank’s process for address changes.

Next time, I’ll be better organized because I’ll know about the possible snags.  If you’re moving (or planning on doing banking from an overseas location), be sure that you know your bank or credit union’s various security procedures before you start.  It might just save you some hassle and time.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Armed Forces Insurance, USAA, and NFCU have all had difficult customer-service policies (or made annoying mistakes) at times over my last 30 years with them … but PenFed has caused me more problems during the last decade than all of the others combined.

    I appreciate that financial institutions need robust security, but too many times it’s become a club that’s used to beat customers. The corporations seem more worried about their compliance & liability than they are about providing good service.

    We’re keeping our PenFed mortgage and HELOC (until they run out, anyway) but we’re moving our CDs elsewhere as they mature.

  • neal, triquila

    Lackland A.F.B. was fun. “we like it here, we love it here”….right girlies

  • neal, triquila

    “Do u have a 341?” ha ha

  • neal, triquila

    Anyhow, “I really love Dorm guard, right” ha ha

  • neal, triquila

    ….and “fire guard was even better, right” ha ha

  • neal, triquila

    “aim high air force”

    neal, triquila

    medical readiness

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